By Dave Wagner, Freedom New Mexico
BLACKWATER DRAW — Eastern New Mexico University did a lot of things right Saturday afternoon. The Greyhounds did just enough wrong to cost them a victory.
Senior quarterback Billy Garza threw for three touchdowns and ran for what proved to be the winning score with 1:38 left in the game, and Texas A&M-Kingsville held on for a 35-32 Lone Star Conference South Division win at Greyhound Stadium.
Freshman quarterback J.J. Harp threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns for the Greyhounds (1-8, 0-5 South) and the ENMU defense limited the Javelinas to 26 net yards rushing on 31 attempts.
Senior Jabir Perkins returned a first-quarter kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown — after ENMU kicker Adam Richards booted the ball out of bounds twice. Perkins then set up a short scoring drive with a fourth-quarter interception on a pass which deflected off an ENMU receiver’s hands.
The Javs (6-3, 2-2) also scored early in the third quarter when ENMU punter Tim Hall mishit the ball and ended up with a minus-4 punt, putting the ball at the Hounds’ 26, and Kingsville’s Madrick Johnson blocked a potential game-tying 37-yard field goal try by Richards early in the fourth quarter.
“Special teams hurt us terribly bad,” ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said. “That’s the second week in a row specials have hurt us. And we dropped too many passes.
“Defensively, we played well, but you can only ask kids to hammer away for so long.”
Garza completed 28-of-44 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns, two in the second half to Jereko Taylor, who caught 12 passes for 158 yards. Garza took over the game following the blocked field goal, after a penalty on the play set Kingsville back to its own 9.
With the Javs clinging to a 28-25 lead and less than five minutes left, Garza completed 3-of-4 passes for 53 yards on the eight-play, 91-yard march. He also carried three times for 31 yards — more than Kingsville’s net rushing yardage for the game — capped by his 5-yard TD run.
ENMU came back with a 59-yard scoring drive, with Harp hitting Joseph Banyard on a 2-yard TD toss with 34 seconds left, one play after freshman Matt Handler’s 16-yard reception on fourth-and-10 kept the drive alive.
Kingsville then recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal it.
“It was ugly, but we’ll take a win any way we can get one,” Kingsville coach Bo Atterberry said. “Hats off to Eastern New Mexico. They came up with some nice plays today when they needed them.”
Kingsville had its worst rushing game of the season, and was in the minus column on the ground until well into the fourth quarter.
“They (Hounds) did a good job of defending the run,” Atterberry said. “Any time you become predictable on offense, it makes it difficult.”
Harp completed 36-of-61 passes, including 12 for 117 yards to freshman Darian Dale and 10 for 90 yards to junior Jessie Poku. Dale and freshman Jacob Drinkard also caught TD passes.
The Javs sacked Harp four times for losses totaling 47 yards.
“I thought J.J. played OK; the biggest thing was the dropped passes,” Ribaudo said. “But one thing I’ve got to say — our kids fight hard. Nine out of 10 teams probably would have quit at the beginning of the fourth quarter.”
Linebacker Nathan Uland led the ENMU defense with 13 total tackles, while junior linebacker Devin Sweet of Clovis had two of the team’s three sacks on Garza.